COVID-19 and climate change

Covid-19 has caused unprecedented upheaval globally, impacting all facets of life, and its consequences will be felt for several years to come. The global threat posed by the pandemic is by no means over, yet another major crisis is brewing which deserves urgent attention of policymakers around the world as well.
In a recent blog, Bill Gates again warned that “As awful as this pandemic is, climate change could be worse.” While Gates places much faith in the power of technology and global elites to address the impact of global challenges, he does aptly point out that the impending threat of climate change can unleash impacts more varied and long-lasting than those of Covid-19.
Governments in poorer countries like ours are already experiencing pressures to contend with severer floods and droughts, which are becoming more frequent due to climate change. As the situation worsens, already struggling governments will have little choice but to spend more of their scant resources dealing with the effects of climate change.
Social media was abuzz with images of the pollution clearing up as the global economy came to a grinding halt due to worldwide lockdowns due to Covid-19. However, the global response to Covid-19 has barely made a dent in the causes of climate change, according to a new UN report. The United in Science report brings together experts from international organisations to provide a snapshot of the state of global climate today. It notes that despite CO2 emissions plummeting during a few months of Covid-19 lockdown, emission concentrations continue to rise. The past five years are the warmest on record.
Scientists are warning that global warming can also create more opportunities for pathogens to thrive and spread. Climate change caused by deforestation, urban crowding and wet markets for wild game create enabling conditions for future pandemics.
There are evident lessons to be learnt from Covid-19. Inequality can be evidently exacerbated by pandemics. Covid-19 forced lockdowns which have hurt the poor disproportionately, who have been more susceptible to the virus due to their cramped living and working conditions, and also had less opportunities to seek adequate treatment. The poor are expected to bear the brunt of worsening climate change too, which will exacerbate already glaring global inequalities.
Delaying climate change mitigation will prove to be costly. We should learn from the devastation caused by Covid-19, which could have been significantly curbed had there been more transparency around its initial spread, and less lethargy in government responses.
Some, like the EU, have been wise to opt for green stimulus measures to overcome the Covid-19 crisis. In the US, the Covid-19 response has been a disaster, and if President Trump secures another term, the situation could be bleak not only for contending with pandemics and environmental challenges within the US, but for multilateral efforts for which US financial support remains vital.
Unfortunately, many governments tried to use diversionary tactics rather than addressing their own incompetence to deal with the Covid-19 crisis. As the virus wreaks havoc in India, its government has ramped up its populist messages and used Covid-19 as an opportunity to clamp down on dissent. Other countries ranging from Turkey to Venezuela have employed similar strategies.
Pakistan is in a self-congratulatory mode, as it has been relatively spared by Covid-19 thus far. But we are not adequately prepared for future pandemics nor the varied threats of climate change. Pakistan does not have a share in the global economy to make a drastic impact on global warming, but we are not doing enough to contend with its consequences or curb local causes of pollution. Flood mitigation and contending with drought are not getting the attention they deserve. We are set to proceed full speed ahead with investing in a coal dependent energy portfolio. No long-lasting measures have been implemented to lessen air pollution, which bring large parts of the country to its knees every smog season.-Courtesy: The Express Tribune

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